THE holiday season is upon us, and if you are thinking of taking a break in Asia then you are not alone. In 2016, over 300 million tourists holidayed in Asia, with the vast majority visiting over the summer season or over Christmas and New Year.
If you want to travel in Asia during the winter season, there is still time to book a quick flight for Christmas and New Year or, if your schedule allows, then holidaying in the low season in Asia, through January and February, could mean some great savings on tickets and accommodation as prices plummet when everyone goes back to school or work.
Here are some of the best places to spend the winter in Asia…
The beautiful island of Bali in sunny Indonesia is a prime holiday destination over Christmas and New Year, even though this is also the peak of the rainy season. This year, however, the island could see something of a slump as visitor numbers have taken a hit due to the ongoing eruption of Mount Agung, an active volcano in the east of the island. According to the Wall Street Journal, visitors are cancelling trips to Bali in the thousands, costing the island an eye-watering US$18 million a day in lost revenue. With that in mind, if you want to support tourism in Indonesia and snap up some cheap deals in the process, then you may want to think about booking a winter trip to the Island of the Gods.
Some people choose to travel to Asia in search of warmer climes, but if you want to embrace the snow season then why not head to Niseko in Japan which is known for its winter sports? This part of the country has made a name for itself in recent years thanks to its stunning mountain scenery and its premium snow, which is known for a low moisture content that means that you can expect crisp powder that is perfect for skiing and snowboarding. So good are the wintery conditions in Niseko, that the snow has been called “champagne powder snow” to denote its premium composition. As well as winter sports, you can also enjoy some of the best natural attractions in Japan in the form of towering Mount Yotei and glassy Lake Toya. If you don’t have time to make it to Niseko for Christmas then you can still enjoy some snowy action later in the year as the ski season runs through until May.
If you want some warm weather over the winter period but don’t want to face the fearsome heat of the summer months in Asia then consider heading to Bangkok in Thailand over the winter. December is the driest month in the city, so you can avoid the wet season that plagues other countries like Indonesia at this time, and this is also the “cool” season when temperatures hover between 20 – 30 degrees Celsius, with an average of around 21 degrees. Bangkok is also known for its winter wonderland displays and you will find a host of Christmas themed events which mean that you won’t feel like you are missing out on any of the holiday cheer. If you are not convinced, then independent travel guide for Southeast Asia, Travelfish, claims that December offers you “Bangkok at its best”.
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
The holidays are not for everyone, and some of us may prefer to eschew all the trappings of the winter season and instead focus on other things. If you prefer not to be overwhelmed with gaudy Christmas cheer, then perhaps consider a trip to Brunei where Christmas is officially banned. Those caught illegally celebrating the holiday can face up to five years in prison, and festive features such as Christmas trees and Santa hats are prohibited. Still, if you prefer hot weather and the chance to explore an under-visited destination in Southeast Asia then this is still a good pick in the region for an alternative kind of winter holiday.
One of the best places to spend the winter in Asia may well be Hong Kong. Over the Christmas period, Hong Kong is a riot of decorations and festive fun, and it doesn’t stop until the New Year, when the territory puts on one of the most famous and opulent firework displays in the region over Victoria Harbour. Every year over 4.5 tonnes of fireworks are set off over the water for New Year, Lunar New Year and National Day, totalling several million dollars, and the entire event is free of charge, although you will need to get there early if you want to grab a prime spot overlooking the harbour. Temperatures are also mild at this time, so if you want to escape the heat then this is also a good choice, although it probably won’t come cheap as hotels in Hong Kong are known for their hefty markups around Christmas and New Year.